Insanity plea accepted in Mo. hospital killing

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A western Missouri man accused of beating a fellow Veterans Administration hospital patient to death won’t be tried for murder after a prosecutor accepted his insanity plea Monday, citing a second doctor’s diagnosis that the defendant is schizophrenic.

Rudy Perez, 33, of Sedalia, had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity or mental defect in the Feb. 1 killing of Robert O. Hill, 78, at Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital in Columbia. Hill, of Warsaw, was a patient, and Perez was there on a 96-hour involuntary commitment from Pettis County following an alleged assault on his father.

Perez had been scheduled for trial Oct. 1 in Boone County Circuit Court. But prosecutor Dan Knight dropped the murder charge Monday, noting doctors’ findings that Perez had a history of hallucinations and paranoid delusions dating back to 1999.

Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler sentenced Perez to a maximum security mental facility at Fulton State Hospital. He can petition yearly for release but will likely spend the rest of his life at Fulton, Knight said.

Authorities said Perez first attacked Hill in their shared hospital room, hitting him in the head and face. They were separated, but after Perez calmed down and Hill was treated for his injuries, the two were readmitted to the common area and Hill was attacked again.

Perez was also facing assault charges at the time in Pettis County.

Problems with a police report about an alleged assault on a neighbor had forced authorities to release Perez from the Pettis County jail on Jan. 29. While in the jail, he attacked an officer, kicked cell doors, punched windows and walked around “agitated” in his cell, according to court records.

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